I have worked in animal welfare and one of the first things you are taught is to keep your emotions in check. It seemed reasonable as there are so many things that break your heart in this industry. You learn quickly that the world is a VERY harsh place, but Mother Nature is no where near as unforgiving as what people can do. If one went around crying about it all the time one wouldn't be taken seriously. Then I began working with Congress and again the lesson was reinforced, act professional, not emotional. I sat in meetings talking to aides and without missing a beat I would talk about the cruelty perpetrated on horses without a trace of emotion. I got really good at it, but somehow I saw that we weren't making the progress we should be making with our bills.
During the debate on HR 503 on the House floor in 2006 I heard a wonderful speaker that put things into perspective. It was the testimony of Rep. Moran of Virginia. If you haven't heard it you can read it by clicking here. Rep Moran understood that it isn't all cut and dried, it is an emotional issue. I began talking about the emotional aspects while in meetings, but I still remained professional and didn't allow the emotional aspects to become evident. After all, it is lesson one right?
Lately I have been thinking about how and why we have had successes in the past. I feel like we need to go back and look at history and find the answers to how they succeeded and use those same things to succeed now. Velma Johnston aka "Wild Horse Annie" talked about her emotional responses to seeing the wild horses bloody and battered and she used the most emotional tactic possible to get bills passed, getting school children involved. When cruelty laws are passed, it isn't the professional folks that get it done. It is the emotional pleas of those who have seen first hand the results of the cruelty. It is the emotional response that people have had whose pets were victimized. The cries of children who lost their beloved horses. Remember the girl whose horse was stolen on her birthday and ultimately slaughtered? What about the horror we all felt when we first heard they slaughtered pregnant mares or that one gave birth on the slaughter house floor?
I have also been thinking that we have fallen for the whole "professional" issue because those that are opposed to horse slaughter or those practical ranchers who see dollars on the hoof going out the door when wild horses are protected keep telling us we are just a bunch of overly emotional (read whiny) people. To combat that we have actually fallen for their line of thinking by becoming just as unemotional as they are. That isn't our strength and we have fallen for it. I think that we may have lost ground because of it. It is time to regain our humanity.
So, I say it sure the heck is an emotional issue. It breaks my heart when I see some of the horrors I have seen. I cry every time I see horse slaughter videos. I cry when I think about the fact that my grandchildren may never be able to see a true wild horse except on videos and movies. I am emotional and this IS an emotional issue. It hurts the soul to see these things and it SHOULD.
My daughter's pony was 3 months old and headed to slaughter until he became so ill that he was dumped at an auction. It made me MAD to know that the kill buyer violated the law to buy the little guy to take to slaughter and that officials took his word that Manilla was indeed at least 6 months old. It made me mad that the owner sold the boy KNOWING how old he was and didn't care what happened to him as long as they got a few bucks. It ticked me off that he was hauled around the country getting sicker until even the inspectors couldn't ignore it and finally said that he would die on the truck. Why should I sit there quietly and tell this story without emotion? I SHOULD be mad and I should share that with those in meetings so that really understand what our family went through when we saved that boy. How we love him, even though he gets into more trouble than any of our other animals. How funny it is when he makes faces at us. The absolute JOY he brings to my daughter. Do you hear those terms? Mad, happy, love and joy are all emotions, valid emotions. Why hide them?
Yes, we have a ton of documentation to support our side. Yes, we have professional reasons for what we stand for and yes we are right. However, we we took out the emotion we gave a little piece of our argument away, that it is just plain WRONG to treat animals this way. It is just plain magic what therapy horses can do for autistic children. It is just plain good for the soul to watch a horse running on the range free and wild. These things cannot be explained by being all "professional", it is raw emotion and it should be expressed emotionally.
I am not advocating just ranting or acting foolish. I am however saying that we have got to get Congress and the public to understand that this IS an emotional issue and it comes down to right and wrong. So let's embrace the emotions as well as all of the facts. I think we can go much further that way than we have by denying a part of our argument.